Latvia and Lithuania are re-exporting wines produced in other EU countries despite sanctions and poor relations, media report, citing trade data
Lithuania has emerged as Russia's largest wine supplier in the first eight months of 2023, RIA Novosti news agency reported on Sunday, citing the UN Comtrade database of international trade statistics.
According to the report, in January to August this year Lithuania exported $126 million-worth of wine to Russia, a 20.6% increase from last year's figures. Georgia came second, with $112.1 million (up 19.4%), and another Baltic state, Latvia, closed up the top three with $79 million (up 18.5%).
This year's top ten wine suppliers also included Italy ($72.7 million), Spain ($20.8 million), Poland ($18.3 million), Germany ($11.3 million), Chile ($10.4 million), Portugal ($7.7 million) and Armenia ($6.3 million).
Neither Lithuania nor Latvia are known for their wine production and their viticulture is small. The annual wine output in Lithuania is reportedly about 60,000 hectoliters, while Latvia's is roughly half that. In comparison, Italy, Europe's largest wine producer, made 50.3 million hectoliters of the drink in 2022.
The origin of Latvian and Lithuanian wine exports to Russia is not listed in the data. However, it's noted that during the reporting period, the two countries jointly imported $59.3 million worth of wine from Italy, $21 million from Spain and $14.1 million from Germany.
According to data from the Russian Federal Customs Service, in 2022, Russia imported roughly four million hectoliters of wine, including nearly 2.7 million hectoliters from Italy, Spain and Georgia, the top-three suppliers that year. It appears likely that Latvia and Lithuania are reselling to Russia the wine bought from their EU peers, as their joint output could hardly cover this volume of exports.
Amid Ukraine-related sanctions last year, the EU banned wine exports to Russia that exceed €300 ($315) per bottle. Members of the French Champagne growers' union stopped supplying their products to Russia. In response to sanctions, in July this year Russia hiked import duties on wine from 'unfriendly' countries from 12.5 to 20%.
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